Category Archives: Upper Deck Insight

Don’t Worry Kevin Gregg – Being an Elite Closer is VERY Tough

In the wake of yesterday’s horrendous performance by Kevin Gregg I started thinking about closers.  Watching him nibble around the strike zone, walk batter after batter, and finally completely break down gave me mixed emotions.  In fact, the closer position has always given me mixed feelings.

On one hand, it should be simple.  You are a major league pitcher and all you have to do is record three outs.  In most cases, you are coming into the game 100% fresh.  You haven’t been on the mound for several innings and logged over 100 pitches.  How hard can it be?

On the other hand, it is the most difficult time of the game.  Sure only three outs are required, but the game is close, and all eyes are upon you.  Failure is not an option as you will not have the opportunity to come out in the next inning and fix your mistakes.  Starting pitchers can do that, closers can not.

So to me closers are a mixed bag. They really should have great numbers, but all it takes is one bad outing and the stats go haywire.  It takes a lot of three-up three-down innings to repair the damage done to an ERA by a blown three-run save.

After Gregg’s failure I decided to hunt for how many truly elite closers are out there, by using the incredible data at baseball-reference.com.  According to their wealth of statistical information, a 30-save season has been accomplished 368 times in major league history.  But after sweating though many of Gregg’s saves this season, everybody can clearly tell that there is a difference between a good save and a bad save, and by extension between a good 30-save season and a not-so-good 30-save season.

So what defines a good save?  Obviously, a three-up three-down inning is best.  Putting runners on base, via hit or walk, brings a closer face-to-face with disaster – the blown save.  But clearly a three-up three-down inning can not be accomplished each and every time out.  So what defines a good season for a closer?

To me, ALL of the following criteria have to be met:

– 40+ saves in the season (showing reliability)

– a sub 2.00 ERA (showing the ability to prevent runs)

– a sub 1.00 WHIP (showing dominance – preventing runners from getting on base)

My original hypothesis was that after inputting all of those parameters I would see approximately 75 or more individual seasons on the list, or about three seasons each year from the mid-80’s when closers started to become fashionable.

I was WAY off.

A season that sees a closer save 40 or more games with a sub 2.00 ERA and 1.00 WHIP has been accomplished only 21 times in MLB history, by 15 different men:

– Armando Benitez (2004), Billy Wagner (2003), Bryan Harvey (1991, 1993), Chad Cordero (2005), Dan Quisenberry (1983), Dennis Eckersley (1990, 1992), Eric Gagne (2002, 2003), J.J. Putz (2007), Joakim Soria (2008), Joe Nathan (2004), John Smoltz (2003), Mariano Rivera (1999, 2005, 2009), Michael Jackson (1998), Robb Nen (1998, 2000), Trevor Hoffman (1998)

Two things strike me about that list.  One – there are no Blue Jays on it.  We thought that Tom Henke and Duane Ward were lights out dominant.  I guess they were  a bit below that.  Two – there are only 15 players on it!!!! That tells me that for every save that we have had to bite our nails for with Kevin Gregg, or Billy Koch, or BJ Ryan, or Jason Frasor, virtually EVERY OTHER TEAM IN BASEBALL is doing the same thing!!!

So don’t feel so bad Mr. Gregg.  Though you screwed up royally yesterday, you are definitely not alone. 

But I would dump you in a second for a 1990 version of Dennis Eckersley… website offline . link checker .

Battle of the GM’s – Draft Edition

How will Anthopoulos fare on June 7th?

Believe it or not, occasionally 500 Level Fan actually spends some time doing research, collecting data, organizing the results, and forming an educated and informed opinion.  With the MLB first year player draft coming up on June 7th, this is one of those times.  This year’s draft will be the first for the Jays under the direction of new GM Alex Anthopoulos.  AA spent much of the offseason revamping the scouting department, beefing it up in hopes of increasing Toronto’s ability to find good, young, and cheap players.  The first year draft will be his first real opportunity to use the knowledge he has acquired from this initiative.

So with the draft on the horizon, I thought it would be interesting to look at how Anthopoulos’ predecessors fared in the draft while they were at the helm of the Jays.  Now, even a small child can tell you that the draft in any sport is a crapshoot, but baseball is the biggest shot in the dark of them all.  The sheer volume of players, rounds, and minor league teams and levels, make baseball drafting an inexact science at best, and a blind dart shot at worst.  But that being said, today I am armed with perfect 20/20 hindsight, giving me the ability to see where the Jays messed up and where they didn’t.

To make the study a bit easier, I focused only on Toronto’s first round selections, ignoring subsequent rounds and supplemental draft picks.  I placed each first round pick into one of four categories:

Good: These are players who were successful Toronto Blue Jays.  Not necessarily All-Stars, but good, solid contributors while wearing the blue bird on the uniform.

Decent: These are players who ended up being fairly successul major league players, but not for the Jays.  Technically the draft pick was good, just not for the right team.

Bad: These are players who made the Blue Jays and either were not very good, or outright sucked.

Ugly: First round draft picks who never even made the major leagues.

For every pick that was not classified as “good”, I looked at other players the Jays could have selected in their draft slot but passed over.  Of course, as I said, I have 20/20 hindsight, so I know what players ended up being All-Stars or Hall-of-Famers.  But this is supposed to be fun, so I took creative license.

The Blue Jays have had three general managers before AA, and while we can effectively close the book as to how Pat Gillick and Gord Ash fared in their drafts, many of the players JP Ricciardi selected are still working their way up through the minors.  But I think we can get a pretty good idea whether they’ll make it or not.  Enough said – on with the game.

Contestant 1 – Pat Gillick

Tenure: GM from 1977 – 1994, 18 drafts with 18 first round selections

Drafting Results

Good – Lloyd Moseby (2nd overall, 1978), John Cerutti (21st, 1981), Ed Sprague (25th, 1988), Shawn Green (16th, 1991), Shannon Stewart (19th, 1992)

Decent – Steve Karsay (22nd, 1990 – was traded for Rickey Henderson), Chris Carpenter (15th, 1993)

Bad – Matt Williams (pitcher, 5th, 1981), Matt Stark (9th, 1983), Alex Sanchez (17th, 1987), Eddie Zosky (19th, 1989), Kevin Witt (28th, 1994)

Ugly – Tom Goffena (25th, 1977), Jay Schroeder (3rd, 1979), Gary Harris (2nd, 1980), Augie Schmidt (2nd, 1982), Greg David (25th, 1985), Earl Sanders (26th, 1986)

Notable Players passed over – Ozzie Smith, Tim Raines, Tony Gwynn, David Cone, Dwight Gooden, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Dave Justice, John Smoltz, Mo Vaughn Continue reading Battle of the GM’s – Draft Edition

Revenge of the Ex: F@#* You Eric Hinske

There are a lot of things that people hate in life, things that might not seem terrible on the surface but have the ability to nag at you, eat at you, annoy you to the core.  Some examples include biting into an apple and finding it to be soft, leaving a game early and missing a miracle comeback by the home team, parking in a no-parking space for less than 60 seconds yet still getting a parking ticket.  But of all of those annoyances, nothing angers a guy more than when he bumps into an ex and finds that she is happier without you, much happier than she ever was with you.  We take it as a personal insult, as a commentary on ourselves.  It is not good.

An extension of the same thing happens in sports, when a player leaves your hometown team and instantly explodes into a successful player (or even a superstar) elsewhere.  Toronto sports fans know this feeling all too well, not just in baseball but in all sports.  Conor Casey played two matches for Toronto FC, was kicked out the door to Colorado, then promptly exploded to score 16 goals in 24 matches to finish second in the goal scoring race behind Jeff Cunningham, another former TFC player.  Ask a Leafs fan about Tuuka Rask, Alyn McCauley, or Brad Boyes and you’ll probably hear a string of curse words directed at upper management.  The Jays have a few that have stung over the years as well, most notably 2005 Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter.

But of all the players to leave, there is nobody that angers me more than Eric F-ing Hinske.  You remember Hinske don’t you?  He was the 2002 AL Rookie of the Year Award winner for the Blue Jays.  After a season that saw him hit .279 with 24 HR, 84 RBI, and 13 SB Hinske was the toast of the town, expected to team up with Delgado, Wells, Stewart, and Alex Gonzalez to lead the Jays back to the playoffs.  But a funny thing happened to Hinske after he won the ROY.  He got fat.  He got lazy.  He forgot how to play defense.  He no longer could hit, either for average or for power.  He was so badly out of shape that Toronto sports writers wondered aloud whether or not he actually ate his rookie of the year trophy.  The Jays finally tired of him and dumped him on Boston – a division rival no less! – in 2006.

We all know the story from there.  Hinske swallowed a horseshoe and became the luckiest player in baseball, maybe even in the history of sports.  With very little to offer, Eric went to three consecutive World Series, winning two rings.  His luck is chronicled in an article I wrote for TOSports.

This offseason Hinske signed with Atlanta.  The Braves were expected to possibly contend this year, but playing in the same division as Utley, Howard, Rollins, Werth, Halladay and the rest of the Phillies, it looked like the Wild Card might be their only chance to reach the postseason.  There was little chance that Hinkse was going to come back to haunt me yet again.  Until this morning…

Playing in a competitive fantasy baseball league, I found myself slowly but surely falling down the standings, from first to second to third.  Needing an offensive boost, I took a look at the free agents available in the pool and sorted by RBI’s.  To my shock, suprise, and horror, Eric Hinske floated towards the top.  With only 68 AB on the season, Hinske has 20 RBI – a pace that would put him over 145 RBI if projected to a full season.  He also has 4 HR and is hitting .368 with an out-of-this-world 1.127 OPS.  How is this possible?

Toronto is playing excellent baseball but has a serious lack of depth that might become a large issue the deeper the season becomes.  Their current bench (catchers excluded) of John McDonald, Jeremy Reed, and Mike McCoy have COMBINED for 92 AB and produced a .272 avg, 0 HR, and 5 RBI.  In other words three players have combined to a produce a fraction of what Hinske has produced on his own.

Don’t get me wrong.  This is not a plea to Alex Anthopoulos to re-acquire Eric.  There is no way that we want Hinske back in town.  There is no way that we want him playing, or trying to play, 3B or OF for the 2010 Jays.  But he is a living, walking, and breathing vision of everything a Blue Jays fan does want – a productive bench, playoff appearances, and world series rings.

And he doesn’t deserve any of it.

So F you Eric Hinske.  F You. my site whois same sites expired domains . expiration of domains apache web server . link checker .

Fun With Numbers

Tough game last night as the Jays couldn’t solve Dan Haren.  He dominated Toronto both on the mound and at the plate, pitching 8 IP with 4 ER, 9 H and 8 K, and also going 2-4 with 2 doubles and 3 RBI.  But it was a very interesting game for the Jays despite the loss.  They smacked six long balls, including three alone for Edwin Encarnacion, extending their MLB  HR lead.  Bautista also went deep for the 13th time this season, continuing his absolutely torrid pace.

All of those home runs inspired me to take a deeper look into some of the numbers early on in the 2010 MLB season:

6  –  Runs scored by the Blue Jays yesterday, all coming on solo home runs.  That is the first time that has happened since 1920.

45.5  –  Percentage of Edwin Encarnacion’s hits that have been home runs.  After launching three yesterday, the 3B now has 11 hits on the season, 5 of them being dingers.

4  –  Home runs out of the five hit by Encarnacion this season that have been solo shots.  Either the Jays can’t get runners on for his at-bats, or he can’t hit with runners on-base.

64  –  Strikeouts this season by Ricky Romero, 2nd most in the AL.  A Blue Jay has won the AL strikeout title three times in team history: AJ Burnett (2008), and Roger Clemens (1997 & 1998)

292  –  Toronto’s single season strikeout record, set by Roger Clemens in 1997.  At his current pace of 9.1 K/9, Romero would need to pitch 282 innings to break the record.  Unlikely.

13  –  Wild pitches by Ricky Romero, most in the major leagues.  A Jay has lead all of baseball in wild pitches twice in club history: Juan Guzman in 1993 (with 26) and 1994 (with 13).

12  –  Saves by Kevin Gregg, tied for the lead in the AL.  The last Jay to lead the AL in saves was Duane Ward in 1993.  The great Tom Henke also won a saves title as a Jay in 1987.

13  –  HR by Jose Bautista, one behind major league leader Paul Konerko.  Only once has a Jay lead baseball in home runs, Jesse Barfield with 40 in 1986.  (Fred McGriff did win an AL HR crown in 1989.)

116  –  Wins that the Tampa Bay Rays are on pace for through 42 games.  The major league record in a season is 116 (Seattle in 2001, Chi Cubs in 1906).  Might be tough to catch them this year…

17  –  Consecutive losing seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  With an 18-24 record so far, and a league worst 144 runs scored, that could very easily become 18, the most in any professional sport.  No matter how bad we think we have it in Toronto, it could always be worse… same sites . expired domains . expiration of domains apache web server website offline link checker

Law of Averages 1 – Blue Jays 0

It was bound to happen.  There were so many aspects of today’s ninth inning that were screaming out for a market correction.  The Jays took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the 9th, had the AL leader in saves on the hill, and were facing the worst offense in baseball.  Even more – the worst offense in baseball was riding a five-game losing streak and had done nothing worthwhile all day long.  It can even be argued that they embarrassed themselves by having to resort to back-to-back bunts in the third inning to score their lone run of the game.  Offense like that is bad on a monumental level.

But it became very evident in the 9th that Toronto was not going to win today’s ballgame.  Kevin Gregg couldn’t throw strikes.  Seattle started getting hits.  For the first time this season baseball reverted back to what was “supposed” to happen.  Even Ken “Sleepy” Griffey had a hit, the game winning single of all things.

I don’t chalk this loss up to Kevin Gregg falling apart.  I don’t foresee this loss starting Toronto’s second annual May collapse.  No – this loss is simply the law of averages striking back, hitting Jays fans directly in the nuts.  Take the following into consideration:

– Before this season, Kevin Gregg had a career K:BB ratio of 2.26:1.  This season it was 4.4:1.  The law of averages dictated that more walks should be on the horizon, and today Gregg walked two and struck out zero.

– Similarly, Gregg’s career ERA was 4.10 pre-2010, compared to 1.89 this season.  Today? 3 ER in 0.1 IP – law of averages wins again.

– The Jays had won three games in the ninth inning that they had no business winning this season.  For a team that is not expected to contend for a championship, logic dictates that by the end of the season they should wind up with a similar number of losses in games they had no business losing.  Today was one.

– Seattle had only six comeback wins through the first 40 games, including only one win in 18 games when they trailed in the ninth.  For a team expected to contend for the AL West title, that number is too low.  Consider today a market correction.

– Ken Griffey Jr. was having one of the worst seasons on record, not only for him, but for anybody.  In 93 AB, he was scuffling along with a .183 avg, .449 OPS, 0 HR, and 6 RBI.  When he came to the plate in the ninth with the winning run on second, everybody knew it was over.  It was the God of Averages that made sure the future hall-of-famer had at least one more moment of glory.

So don’t worry Jays fans.  Toronto shouldn’t be this good and they are.  Seattle shouldn’t be this bad and they are.  Think of this loss as a slight market correction and nothing more.  A game like this was bound to happen eventually.  Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen any more… expired domains expiration of domains apache web server . website offline link checker